After last week's positively overwhelming family therapy session, NBC's "This Is Us" slowed things down for the follow-up, which is good because we're still hitching our breath over Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) stunning reveal that maybe she did love Randall (Sterling K. Brown) a little bit more than Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), but it's only because he was easier to raise.
Her love for her children was genuine, as we've seen in countless flashbacks to this point. And she really tried with Kevin and Kate, but neither of them would let her in. They each had their issues with her, and very little of it had to do with her at all. It was totally unfair, but that's also kind of the way it is with kids ... and especially teenagers. Kate resented that Rebecca was tall and thin and gorgeous, while Kevin just felt alone and neglected by both parents. And yet, this week we again saw Rebecca trying with Kate. Unfortunately, memory is often more powerful than reality.
As we do every week, we're going to single out the show's most powerful moments, scoring them by how many tissues we tore through just to watch them. Believe us, these are happy tears of anguish.
No! Don't you do this, "This Is Us!" You're better than this ridiculous foreshadowing and pandering to the lowest common denominator. You know how to get kicked out of the "Best Drama Series" race at all the awards shows? Write and film ridiculous scenes like this. We already know there's a fire coming and that's how Jack (Milo Ventimgila) died. It's been covered. Believe us, we remember. We didn't need this cheesy closing moment of Rebecca asking Jack if they forgot something at the mall while we pan out to see a smoke alarm with no battery in it. Even a "very special episode" of "Fuller House" would give its audience more credit than this. Consider this your only warning. Stop it. Right now!
While connecting with Kevin over suit-buying after that career-ending injury, Jack is forced to confront and think about the dream he gave up when the triplets were born. Suddenly, he found himself thinking that he was tired of kissing up to a boss he hated and working to make someone else richer (not to mention wearing suits). So he told Rebecca, as the kids were on the cusp of college, that he'd like to quit his job and give his construction dream, Big 3 Homes, a try. Of course, we know that we're closer than ever to the fire that will presumably take his life and that dream will never be realized, but now we also know that Rebecca was willing to jump down that rabbit hole of risk with him. As Miguel told Kevin later, there was no Jack and there was no Rebecca. There was only Jack-and-Rebecca, and theirs remains the love standard no one else can reach.
So is the message that William's (Ron Cephas Jones) old building is the stray? This storyline leaves us with mixed feelings, as we're on Team Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) that Randall needs to get it together. She thinks getting a job will bring him back from "outer space," as she put it, but maybe owning this building would do that. Certainly, it would add to their expenses. Beth has supported her man through all kinds of craziness as he has processed everything to do with his biological father, but is she really going to take this huge risk with him? And for what? So he could go hang out with everyone and encourage them to reminisce about William? How will this help him find the closure he needs? On the other hand, we totally admit we'd kind of be down for it if it meant more time with some of the delightful tenants we met this week, including Garrett Morris' Lloyd, who took care of William's cat, Clooney.
We knew we liked Madison (Caitlin Thompson) under all her quirks, and now we're falling in love with her more because of them. This week, it was revealed that Madison had fallen back into her bulimic habits, but that's not what she talked about at group. Kate called on her to say something that will make everyone's eyes roll, and she didn't disappoint. "My wrists are getting fat," she declared. But her truth was far more raw, as was her apparent loneliness. Maybe that's what brings her to therapy each week. Her affection for Kate seems to be genuine, too, as she rented out a bridal shoppe so they could look at dresses together, and it was Kate she called in her lowest moment. When Kate arrived, she noted that Madison lives alone in a big house. And after a few, short bonding moments, Madison said, "I can't believe it. I finally have a best friend." This girl is crying out for someone, and once again, we love the "odd couple" dynamic of the more buttoned-down and serious Kate paired with the unpredictable Madison. We 'ship it.
It was a proud moment for Rebecca, who'd never been able to connect with Kate, but it was also so much more complex than she or we realized. Kate revealed later to Madison that she had actually lost the weight as a teen. We'd noticed that actress Hannah Zeile (teenage Kate) didn't physically fit the narrative of a heavier Kate at that point in her life, but had no idea that disparity was part of the story. Now, it fits the narrative even more. Whereas we were lead to believe Kate stormed out of the store because the dresses didn't fit -- and she even told Rebecca that -- that wasn't quite right. After a size 7 fit just fine, Kate forced herself to try a size 5 so she could be mad that it didn't fit. She told Madison she needed to be angry at herself for her size; she needed that internal voice yelling at her. After the loss of her father, she likely poured her grief into bad eating habits, as she'd done again after her miscarriage. Meanwhile, poor Rebecca was just obliviously happy, thinking that she could share this special bonding moment with her daughter that she'd been denied all these years.
The Miguel (Jon Huertas) hate has been there since day one, and it was mostly played for laughs, but it was never really all that funny. Recent episodes have fleshed out his character more, and this one dug deeper than ever as Kevin went to spend time and reconnect with his mother. Of course Miguel was there, and we even got to see him honorably stand up for his wife, looking to defend her in case Kevin went off again. When Miguel declared to an incensed Kevin that he was Rebecca's wife, Kevin corrected him that his father was her husband. It was a huge slap in the face that Miguel doesn't deserve, but par for the course to how he's been treated by this family. And yet, he stands by his wife and he is the happiness and the joy that she deserves at this point in her life. We get the smallest glimpse of them cuddling in front of the TV. Kevin sees it, too, and is both remorseful for his words and just maybe beginning to understand that Miguel's a decent guy. He's not trying to replace Jack -- he never could or would -- so cut him some slack.
If there's one thing Kate could use in her life, it's a girlfriend. She spends so much time alone with her thoughts, and as we've seen, those thoughts are often self-destructive. Maybe the best thing for her to do is connect with someone who's thoughts also betray them. Beyond that, Madison represents the spectrum of eating disorders that Kate has struggled to acknowledge or appreciate. Overeating is her addiction, so because Madison is skinny, what does she have to complain about? It's an insensitive viewpoint Kate has espoused publicly over and over again in group, but she had no idea the struggle within Madison. By expanding their understanding and representation of food-related disorders, "This Is Us" is taking an important step in talking about the entire spectrum, and seeing the validity in everyone's journey. Madison's struggle is no less real than Kate's, even if it isn't as readily visible to the outside world. Being able to share their issues with food could help both of them better grapple their own problems, and teach some humility and compassion as well. Seeing that could do the same for the audience.
"This Is Us" airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.